Computer crime is our government's worst nightmare. Not because it threatens massive disruption of national life, but because it brings together the uncontrollable and the incomprehensible.
On the one hand, our masters admit they're at a dead loss over catching the criminals — who seem to be safe unless they donate to charity and type in the wrong URLs — while on the other, handing over the country's online safety strategy to whichever companies have the fattest purse. As this follows much the same policy that produced a string of Whitehall IT farces across tax, immigration, health and defence, the outlook for the law-abiding taxpayer looks as grim as a Guy Ritchie review.
It need not be like this. As the repercussions from the dot-com bubble and the Enron and Worldcom scandals revealed, the finest consultants can act in their clients' interests even when these are staggeringly illegal. Instead of discouraging this, it should be encouraged. Putting the consultants to work alongside the computer criminals would at least even up the balance of power between the law and the lawless.
These IT criminal organisations are ripe for systematic reform. We know little about how they work except that the brains of the outfit seem to form small teams of committed experts with disparate skills, rewarded well yet very clear on the consequences of failure.
These people are in dire need of proper enterprise-level systems, with an intensively managed back end running automated, streamlined ERP-driven logistics and procurement systems, fronted by powerful CRM and a bespoke process management solution for their project and deployment strategy. And have they even considered the opportunities for cost control that a comprehensive outsourcing policy can provide?
In their favoured group of expensively suited consultants, the government has one of the finest crime-fighting teams ever assembled. Once insinuated into the digital demimonde, our heroes will effortlessly turn the energy and creativity of the masterminds in on themselves, turning once nimble outfits into costly, self-obsessed multi-tiered confections incapable of stealing a Vtech laptop from a toddler.
As an added benefit, while the massed armies of consultants are out there doing good, the government, civil service and police force can take the opportunity to work out for themselves what it is they need to do and how to do it. May we suggest small teams of committed experts with disparate skill, well-rewarded but very clear on the consequences of failure?